I’m a serial taper. I tape Jay Leno’s show every night. I watch Jay’s monologue and fast forward to see if the show includes one of my favorite comedy bits like Pumpcast News, Celebrity Jeopardy, and Photo Booth.
I almost never watch the hundreds of actors that come on the show to promote their latest movie. I have little interest. Sometimes I fast forward to see what they look like. Halle Berry is more beautiful live on TV then she is on the screen.
The actors usually discuss how meaningful and life changing the role in their latest movie was. Of course they’re back in 6 months, to promote their new latest role. The previous movie is forgotten, stashed away into cinematic mediocrity, and the Hollywood machine, sputters out another dollar and a bucket of buttered popcorn.
My cynicism about actors began when my teenage best friend, Mike Shapiro, starred in a semi professional production of West Side Story at the long defunct, Abbey Theatre in N.E. Philly. Mike told me that the young lady who played Maria was really a stuck up bitch.
Every once in a while the impregnable veil of celebrity wonderfulness breaks down to reveal the true monsters underneath. We’re told monstrous tales of cruelty about how Diana Ross treats her staff that would rival Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.
We visualize a smiling Bing Crosby happily riding a golf cart through acres of manicured grass, promoting Florida Orange Juice. Is he’s contemplating the next drunken, beating he supposedly inflicted on his family, regularly?
Who will be the next star to instigate a drunken rampage that will end with police sirens and an ambulance, ala Norman Desmond in Sunset Boulevard?
In spite of my cynicism about actors, I too am susceptible to the lure of motion pictures. I harbor a healthy curiosity about the great actors who appeared on TV and on screens in the faded art deco movie houses of my 1960’s childhood. I guess that’s how I came to admire Kirk Douglas.
There is a vein of integrity that distinguishes Kirk Douglas from most actors. It was Kirk Douglas who finally broke the Hollywood, McCarthy Blacklist. Nobody in Hollywood could hire the talented screen writer Dalton Trombo because he was branded a Communist. So Trombo worked under assumed names. When Kirk Douglas produced and starred in the 1960 blockbuster – Spartacus, he credited Dalton Trombo for the screen writing, in his real name. He was advised not to do it but Kirk had tired of the hypocrisy of the black list. Afterwards, the black list was dead.
In the 1960’s Kirk purchased the movie rights to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Ken Kesey was one of the founders of the hippie movement. He was an early promoter of LSD
Kirk tried for years to get the movie made, unsuccessfully. Promoting a project written by Ken Kesey was a gutsy move for Kirk Douglas who was part of a conservative Hollywood establishment.
Eventually, Kirk’s son Michael Douglas was able to get the movie made in the 1970’s. By that time counter culture had mainstreamed. Kirk was told he was too old to play the lead and it went to Jack Nicholson who played McMurphy. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest contributed to the Jack Nicholson – he’s a wild and crazy guy mythology: A mythology that was still evident a couple of day’s ago when Jack Nicholson leapt onto the playing field, during game 2 of the Lakers vs. Orlando Magic NBA Championship, shouting something that was broadcasted, incoherently into my television set.
I started following Kirk Douglas on MySpace after listening to his latest audio book entitled, “Let’s Face It.” When I was finishing the book, coincidentally, Lust For Life appeared on my local PBS channel. The cinematography of the 1956 movie is a little dated but Kirk Douglas’s performance as Vincent Van Gough was a heartbreaking, emotionally, gut wrenching experience. Perhaps it was equaled by Anthony Quinn’s brilliant portrayal of Vincent’s friend, the emotionally unsusceptible, artist Paul Gauguin. Anthony Quinn won the Oscar for best supporting Actor. Kirk was nominated for best actor.
Since the book and movie, Lust For Life first appeared, Vincent Van Gough has become the icon of the starving artist. Perhaps Van Gough suffered from some hereditary form of madness. But, what drove his self destruction was that he only sold a couple of paintings during his lifetime and relied on his brother for financial support. Sadly, the world was not yet ready for Van Gough’s art. Ironically, his paintings sell for millions today.
Reportedly, John Wayne asked his buddy Kirk Douglas why he would want to play such a weak character. Kirk replied, “Because I’m an actor.”
Kirk Douglas 92 has mellowed over the last few years. At his prime he was the macho, ruggedly handsome, cleft chinned, actor who delivered menacing lines through clenched teeth, an impersonation every impressionist-comedian did in the 1960’s.
Kirk Douglas has turned inwards and become philosophical. Kirk has spent the last few years writing 8 books and rediscovering his Jewish roots. Douglas spends a lot of time with his charitable work, and contemplating some of the world’s problems. Don’t worry! He hasn’t become soft enough to answer the 2 emails I sent him. Kirk, I know that you’re busy. But it hurts, it hurts, buddy.
Kirk Douglas must lead a charmed life minus the aches and pains of senior citizenry.
Having Catherine Zeta Jones for a daughter in law is enough to make any 92 year old man drool into his soup.
No doubt, the stroke that left Kirk Douglas slurring his words and speaking with some difficulty, has contributed to his embrace of the internet. At 92 Kirk Douglas is probably one of the oldest people on Myspace. Kirk would have thousands of people following his blogs on MySpace just because he’s a celebrity and because of his amazing longevity.
But when you read Kirk’s blogs, his resiliency, and indomitable, warm spirit, resonates.
Kirk is a great lover of poetry, and his blogs sometimes feature it. A lesser man would have cursed modern technology, and retreated behind a wall of nostalgia. Instead Kirk Douglas embraced it. Would you expect anything less from Spartacus, the slave who took on the might of Rome?
Follow Kirk Douglas’s MySpace blogs at